Supporters of Borough President Marty Markowitz’s plan to construct a new $64 million, 8,000-seat amphitheater inside Asser Levy Seaside Park often malign the neighborhood green space as a terrible “dustbowl”.
This week the city provided its remedy: concrete.
According to the Department of Parks & Recreation, at least part of Asser Levy Park’s existing 110-yard open field will be covered in 42,000 square feet of concrete.
“Under the current design plans, the area under the amphitheater roof is concrete, with wood decking as access paths to the theater,” Parks Department Phil Abramson said.
Space beyond the proposed seating area and the potato chip-like roof will be maintained, albeit on an elevated plane, as a natural grass lawn where additional concert-goers are expected to assemble for shows.
The Seaside Summer Concert Series at Asser Levy Park currently runs on Thursday nights in July and August.
Plans for the new venue projects an extended concert season beginning in May and running through August.
Critics say that, and the combination of concrete and elevated lawn, disrupts the current use of the park.
“It’s ridiculous,” NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft says. “They’re not fooling anyone. Obviously, children and the public will be prevented from using tens of thousands of square feet as they used to. That is unacceptable. It’s the only green space that community has. Plus, are they going to give kids parachutes in case they fall over the railing?”
Borough Hall argues that the 42,000 concrete space will be versatile and has the potential – with removable seating – to accommodate various recreational uses.
“It is being designed to be more versatile than what is there now due to its improved drainage and canopy covering,” spokesperson Laura Sinagra said. “As with many parks, playgrounds, courts and schoolyards in the city, this can take the form of safety-surface, turf or other type of recreational court or play surface the community desires.”
The Parks Department has traditionally eschewed high-traffic events on the city’s lawns citing the potential for damage.
Officials, however, do not appear to have the same concerns when it comes to Asser Levy Seaside Park.
“This lawn area will be designed to be used by concert-goers who want to sit on a blanket and enjoy the music from there,” Abramson said.
Markowitz’s popular summer concert series stretches all the way back to 1980 at Midwood Field. In 1991, Markowitz was forced to relocate to Asser Levy Seaside Park after officials became concerned that concert-goers might damage newly installed Astroturf at Midwood Field.
Opponents of the “Coney Island Center” plan maintain the amphitheater is better suited inside the Coney Island amusement district.
Before Markowtiz’s concert ever took off, longtime Community Board member Lou Powsner says the borough president – then at the dawn of his political career – had sought support in bringing a concert venue to Steeplechase Park.
As late at 2006, the city explored the feasibility of establishing a new concert venue at Steeplechase Plaza.
“We did look at the feasibility of a small concert venue in Steeplechase Plaza in 2006 as part of our visioning process for the area,” New York City Development Corporation spokesperson David Lombino said.“We ultimately decided that we wanted to make Steeplechase Plaza more of a year-round attraction with the restored B&B Carousel as its focus.”
City Councilmember Domenic Recchia supports construction of the amphitheater at Asser Levy Park and says that he’s been “working diligently” ona parking plan to accommodate concert-goers – another major concern of opponents.
“I think I will have that issue resolved before I’m out of office,” Recchia said.
A required environmental assessment on the amphitheater project has yet to be released.
The Parks Department says that construction of the amphitheater will not trigger the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, but operation of the venue might.
The Design Commission, meanwhile, tabled the “Coney Island Center” last month and has yet to render its decision on the project.